Poly relationships can be confusing. They tend to be a choose-your-own-adventure kind of relationship and for some, that is a dealbreaker. For me, I am all for it! As someone who consider himself a specialist in the poly lifestyle, I have learned that these kinds of relationships can be extremelty successful. Research back this as well as the poly lifestyle continues to be on the rise. As someone who is polyamormous himself, I work a ton with clients who are coming to it for the first time. As much as I would love to say that these people come to me at the beginning of their journey before they start opening up, they don’t. I usually catch them in the middle of it, after mistakes have been made. So in this post is for all of you who want to avoid some pitfalls as you start your journey into the wonderful world of polyamory!
Don’t Unicorn Hunt
Unicorn hunting, or the idea of finding a perfect partner, usually a bisexual woman, to fulfill the needs of both partners, is not only extremely problematic but also never successful. If this is a reason why you are trying to engage in poly, it is going to fail. Trust me. This "unicorn" is a myth. One of the main reasons why we view this as problematic too is because this "unicorn" is often treated as a toy to the couple; something without feelings or emotions that can be disposed of when they are done with them.
Instead, create an open dialogue with your partner about expectations and what you both want out of one or multiple partners so that it can be more realistic. It is OKAY if you both want different outcomes within a poly relationship.
“Gatekeeping,” or exerting control over another person, is never going to work out. Not in monogamy and especially not in polyamory. You do not get a say over who, what, or how your partner engages with themselves and others. If I hear one more cis-straight dude say that they are okay with their partner having sex with a woman and not a man, I am going to explode. Do the work! Not only does your partner deserve it, but you do as well. We need to unlearn all of the toxicity that has been spouted over the years so that we can create s dynamic that is healthy for everyone.
So please, do some internal work and figure out the barriers that are keeping you from accepting your partner’s wants and desires.
Don’t Assume Understanding
Quite often people will assume that their partner understands their requests and consents to the next steps. Many times people will have one conversation and that is it.
Mark my words: this will set you up for failure so please, don’t do it!
Have weekly conversations and re-negotiate the relationship when needed. We change as humans. Why do we think our relationship wouldn't change as well?
If you just want to sleep with other people
There is this idea that the poly lifestyle is just for those who want to sleep around. While yes, open relationships generally follow the basic rule that people are allowed to sleep with other people, that is often decided AFTER the couple has done work in understanding their relationship. If you don’t want to put in the work to figure out you and your partner’s intimate dynamic, then poly won’t work for you.
Instead, talk about sex and intimacy more frequently and get on the same page. Only then can you determine if poly is right for you.
You feel like monogamy is too much work.
If you think that monogamy is too much work, you better buckle up for polyamory. All relationships require work. We are literally opening ourselves up and giving ourselves over to other people. Just as much as laughter and enjoyment are a sign of a healthy relationship, so are conflict and vulnerability.
Think about why you want to be in a relationship of any kind and how you want it to look for you. What is making your relationship feel hard? Is it you? Your partner? Figure that out first before opening up.
When it is all said and done, poly relationships are beautiful and have the ability to create a feedback loop of desire and positivity into our primary relationships. If you are searching for an easy way to avoid exploring intimacy and your current relationship, poly is not the right option. In fact, it is probably the worst thing you could do for your relationship. If you are nervous or scared in any way, reach out to someone in your support system, or a therapist, for help.
Cleveland Sex Therapy is owned by Matt Lachman, a licensed professional clinical counselor and certified sex and relationship therapist who specializes in working with individuals, couples, and polyam folx on their concerns relating to sexuality, intimacy, and overall sexual health. The goal of Cleveland Sex Therapy is to promote inclusivity and nurture sex positivity. For more information, feel free to contact him at Matt@ClevelandSexTherapy.com